zero-click iMessage Exploit

A new zero-click iMessage exploit has been discovered by the security analysts at Citizen Lab that has been used by the threat actors to install NSO Group spyware on the iPhones that belong to the following entities:-

  • Catalan politicians
  • Catalan journalists
  • Catalan activists
  • Catalan Members of the European Parliament (MEPs)
  • Every Catalan president since 2010
  • Catalan jurists
  • Catalan legislators
  • Catalan members of civil society organizations and their families

The team also discovered the evidence of a previously unknown iOS zero-click vulnerability that was used by NSO Group, known as HOMAGE. It is important to note that this security vulnerability was effective up to version 13.2, but not beyond.

During the investigation, it has been detected that 65 individuals were infected between 2017 and 2020 with Pegasus or spyware from Candiru, another mercenary hacking company.

While in that campaign, those 65 people were targeted by exploiting two security vulnerabilities together, and here they are:-

  • Kismet iMessage exploit
  • A WhatsApp flaw (CVE-2019-3568)

Governments around the world are using Pegasus, a sophisticated mercenary spyware program, and a large number of abuse cases have been tied to this spyware.

Israeli surveillance company NSO Group has developed Pegasus, which is a cutting-edge surveillance system. This software package is marketed for government use as surveillance software, which helps investigations into crimes and acts of terrorism.

Targeted EU Commission, UK govt, Finnish diplomats, US State Dept

In addition to various senior officials of the European Commission, the NSO spyware was also used to attack the European Justice Commissioner during the past year.

The government of the United Kingdom has also been informed that Citizen Lab has suspected multiple infections with Pegasus spyware within official UK networks.

One of the Pegasus operators linked to the UAE may have been responsible for an infection on a device owned by the Prime Minister’s Office official. While UAE, India, Cyprus, and Jordan have all been linked to attacks on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK.

In January, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland reported that the devices of the country’s diplomats had been infected with spyware developed by the NSO Group.

Apparently, the same type of spyware was also installed on iPhones belonging to employees of the US Department of State.

As part of its investigation into allegations of breach of EU law stemming from the use of spyware such as NSO Pegasus and similar malicious program, the European Parliament has set up an inquiry committee to investigate those allegations.

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